Categories: Hindu Sage and Saint

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu:Avatar of Lord Krishna

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a spiritual leader (one of the top 10 spiritual gurus of Bengal) in the 15th century. His followers see him as an avatar of Lord Krishna. He started Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a movement that promotes worship of Lord Vishnu. Gaudiya Vaishnavism emphasizes Bhakti yoga for realizing the ultimate truth. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known for popularizing the ‘Maha Mantra’ or ‘Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.’ He also composed a prayer called ‘Siksastakam.’ Born with features like Lord Krishna, he was a child prodigy who became a scholar early on. He opened a school and gained many followers. His mysterious disappearance or death is debated, with theories ranging from epilepsy to murder and magical disappearance.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Early Brilliance

Chaitanya, originally named Vishvambhar, was born on February 18, 1486. His birth coincided with a full lunar eclipse, considered auspicious by Hindu scholars. He was the second child of Sachi Devi and Jagannath Mishra, residing in Srihatta (present-day Sylhet, Bangladesh), with an elder brother named Visvarupa.

Chaitanya, born with fair skin resembling Lord Krishna, displayed exceptional intelligence as a young boy. He began chanting praises of Lord Krishna and reciting religious hymns early on. At 16, he established his own school, attracting numerous students. Known for his wisdom, Chaitanya even defeated a learned scholar, Keshava Kashmiri, in a debate. Following a dream of Goddess Saraswati, Keshava Kashmiri humbly accepted defeat, acknowledging Chaitanya’s true identity the next morning.

Divine Encounter

After Chaitanya’s father, Jagannath Mishra, passed away, he went to the old city of Gaya to perform a religious ceremony for his late father. There, he met a wise ascetic named Ishvara Puri, who later became his guru. When Chaitanya returned home, his way of thinking changed a lot. Local Vaishnavas in Bengal started following him, and soon he became a leader of one of the Vaishnava groups in Nadia district.

Later, he decided to leave Bengal and asked Keshava Bharati to give him ‘sannyasa,’ a state where you give up all material things and search for the ultimate truth. While many ascetics use different methods to find salvation, Chaitanya focused on Bhakti yoga. This means showing love and devotion to the ‘Supreme Being.’ By continuously chanting the name of Lord Krishna, Chaitanya not only practiced Bhakti yoga himself but also taught others the right way to follow it.

Journey of Devotion

For many years, Chaitanya traveled all around India, spreading the teachings of Bhakti yoga. He walked joyfully, chanting Krishna’s name. In 1515, he visited Vrindavan, believed to be where Lord Krishna was born. Chaitanya’s goal was to rediscover and highlight Krishna-related places in Vrindavan.

Chaitanya successfully found important spots, like the seven temples (sapta devalay), still visited by Vaishnavas today. After years of travel, he settled in Puri, Odisha, where he lived the last 24 years of his life. Many, including rulers like Prataprudra Dev, saw Chaitanya not just as a spiritual leader but as Krishna himself. Prataprudra Dev became a devoted supporter of Chaitanya’s ‘sankeertan’ gatherings.

Teachings

“Siksastakam,” a prayer from the 16th century, holds Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings. Gaudiya Vaishnavism follows these principles focused on praising Lord Krishna. Here are Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s 10 teachings:

Krishna, the Supreme Being: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu emphasizes that Lord Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, is the absolute truth, akin to Vaishnavism’s view of Vishnu.

Krishna’s All-encompassing Energies: It acknowledges that Lord Krishna possesses all energies required to sustain the universe.

Krishna as the Source: Lord Krishna is the source of spiritual joy and emotions, enjoying the ultimate rasa or distinct flavor.

Atman as a Part of the Lord: All souls are considered a part of the Supreme Soul, aligning with Hinduism’s concept of Atman and Paramatman.

Influence of Matter on Souls in Physical Form: Souls, due to their ‘tatastha’ nature, are affected by matter when in a physical state.

Liberated Souls Free from Material Influence: Even with the ‘tatastha’ nature, liberated souls are unaffected by matter when not in physical form.

Atman Different Yet Identical to Paramatman: Souls and the material world are distinct yet identical to the Supreme Being, Lord Krishna.

Atman Practices Pure Devotion: Chaitanya Mahaprabhu promotes Bhakti yoga, emphasizing that pure devotion is a path to liberation.

Attaining Krishna’s Love as the Ultimate Goal: Realizing Lord Krishna’s true love, especially through Bhakti yoga and chanting His name, is the ultimate objective.

Lord Krishna as the Sole Blessing: The final teaching underscores striving for the ultimate truth—recognizing Krishna as the sole blessing to be received.
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Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Philosophy

Six Goswamis of Vrindavan

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, although initially following the Madhvacharya tradition, had a philosophy slightly different from other followers. Notably, he didn’t write down his teachings, but one of his followers documented them in ‘Siksastaka,’ consisting of eight verses. These verses are considered the foundation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Despite not penning his thoughts, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu asked his followers, the Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, to present his teachings systematically in their writings.

Controversies and Mysteries

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s followers believe he didn’t pass away, asserting he was an incarnation of Lord Krishna. However, some controversial theories suggest he might have been murdered, while others propose a mysterious magical disappearance. Another account places his death at Tota Gopinath temple in Puri, Odisha. Scholars and historians, though, argue that there is evidence suggesting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu suffered from epilepsy. Texts describe him losing consciousness regularly due to the disease, and some believe epilepsy might have been the cause of his death on June 14, 1534.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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